Mahou Shoujo Lyrical NanohaThis is a featured page

Wolkenritter sketch

This is going to be spoiler-heavy. Also, pretty much just using the romanizations I feel like using.

Nanoha's setting is interstellar in scale and is spread over multiple spatial dimensions, but due to the fact that all the action takes place on Earth and the rest of the universe is only vaguely alluded to, the extent of human civilization and whether any alien civilizations exist is unknown. Reference has been made to 'prime dimensions' and 'surface worlds' but these terms exist in a vacuum at present.

Earth: Earth is more or less as we know it, isolated from the other human civilizations. People with magical potential are born rarely, and they usually live out their lives without ever knowing of their abilities because there is no one to educate them in their use. The known mages of Earth are Gil Graham, Takamachi Nanoha, and Yagami Hayate; the first two were trained by Midchildans and the latter received her knowledge of magic directly from Reinforce. The Time-Space Administration Bureau's patrols cover the world but they have no formal contact.

Midchilda: Midchilda is the dominant civilization in the Nanohaverse, with advanced and interwined technology and magic. Proper names and writing are in English so they are presumed to be English-speakers, whether literally or as an analogue. They are the chief constituents of the Administration Bureau and presumably its founders. 'Midchilda' refers to a single world but its influence is far-flung.

Time-Space Administration Bureau: Admin Bureau for short, TSAB or 'the Bureau' to the fans. The TSAB is a Midchildan-dominated umbrella organization that includes the various service branches of the Midchildan military, its own Investigations Department, a military Intelligence Division, and a research and engineering arm. The Bureau appears to concern itself primarily with policing interworld conflict and finding and sealing Lost Logia powerful enough to stimulate such conflicts or cause widespread destruction. Though many of the main and secondary characters were members of different branches before they joined Hayate's special unit in the third season, little is known about the division of responsibilities and organization of each.

Belka: Belka is a German-themed civilization that at its height was at a similar or greater level of development than Midchilda. It was the origin of the Tome of the Night Sky and presumably the Book of Darkness. The culture has declined much since its glory days, the secrets of its magic lost to all but a few and its martial tradition faded, but it still has some power, ruling over at least one independent city on Midchilda.

'The Church': A religious organization which apparently has considerable clout and cooperates with the TSAB. Apparently a significant part of, perhaps even a theocracy that rules over the autonomous Belkan regions.

Alhazred: Your generic incredibly-advanced precursor civilization destroyed by its own ambition. Many Lost Logia are artifacts of Alhazred.

As the title suggests, magic is the focus of the Nanoha series. Magical energy is generated in varying quantities in humans and more consistently in some beasts by a vaguely dualistic component called the Linker Core, a capacity that appears to run in families. Mages are generally limited by their throughput, not energy reserves, and only tire or 'run out' of magic when pushing themselves to their limits. Spells can be cast by force of will, especially if one wields an Intelligent Device, but they follow rigid principles and mathematical skill is cited as central to good understanding of magecraft. Technological aids are just as important; advanced spells require more involved processing and tighter control than a human's will or manifested diagrams can provide in a timely manner, so Devices are used to make up this gap. Magical energy can be generated and formed artificially, but because a strong human mage has capacity exceeding all but the largest and most advanced technological systems individuals of skill and power remain very important in high-level combat and research.

Devices: Any instrument that provides additional processing for the user's magic power to create the end effect of a spell. These are divided between Storage Devices which lack AI and simply process magic as programmed, and Intelligent Devices which possess AI and a degree of inherent power of their own. The Belkan tradition provides further variation: highly durable Armed Devices which take shapes that increase their functionality, usually weapons, and can channel stored energy to enhance their powers, and the incredibly rare and advanced Unison Devices, which are highly autonomous and can fuse with the user to process their magic directly, but can also be unstable.

Barrier Jacket/Armor: While they depend on defensive spells to take the brunt of enemy attacks all mages generate magical clothing or armor to provide a constant secondary line of defense, usually in the form of fanciful costumes. Midchildans use the term 'barrier jacket' while Belkans just call their armor as such. Signum of the Wolkenritter is notable for her ability to overcharge her armor to deflect attacks completely.

Common Spells: All known A-rank and above mages (presumably the minimum for the marines and air force, who can all fly) can cast basic defensive barriers, fly, and use transfer magic (inter or intra-dimensional teleportation).

Midchildan Magic: Midchildan magic is used by all but a few characters and is the dominant tradition of the setting. Midchildan battlemages tend to be generalists who focus on having a wide range of powerful spells. Their devices are usually staff-shaped, and standard-issue TSAB Storage Devices usually have the alternate form of a card. Midchildans are especially advanced in the blending of magic and traditional technology. Their magical diagrams are circular.

Belkan Magic: Though the Belkan civilization and culture have faded, its magical tradition remains famous for both the power of its spellcasting techniques and its extreme developments in Device engineering. The elite of Belkan battlemages are the highly specialized Armed Device-wielding Knights and those rare generalists with the skill and power to own and use a Unison Device. The only existing practitioners of Old Belkan magic are the Knights of the Wolkenritter who were preserved by the Book of Darkness, its last master Yagami Hayate,
the Church's Knight Karen Glacia, and the oh-so-mysterious Verossa Acoss; however, a corrupted lesser form has survived to modernity and has some popularity in Midchilda, where it is used by Subaru and Elio. Their magical diagrams are triangular and have the mark of the schwertkreuz at the center; for some especially complex spells two such triangles are overlaid and circumscribed to form a larger hexagrammic symbol.

Some common types of magic are:

Combat- Attack:
Light Projectile: The most common skirmishing spells launch explosive projectiles of various kinds. Spells of this category are rarely capable of killing an armored mage in one shot and are used to gain a tactical advantage. Typical projectile counts range from four to twelve; some can be guided by the user after firing with varying degrees of control or even have autonomous homing capability while others depend on blinding speed to hit their targets. These spells are ubiquitous but Fate's Photon Lancer/Plasma Lancer is the most iconic as well as balanced and generic.
Mass Projectile: One category of high-level spells are those that simply cast the equivalent of dozens of standard attack spells at once to create a huge swarm of projectiles. Known examples are the Execution Shift variant of Chrono's Stinger Blade spell and the Phalanx Shift and Genocide Shift variants on Fate's Photon Lancer. The latter is a variant created by the Book of Darkness and the most dramatic example; it creates well over a hundred projectiles simultaneously.
Heavy Projectile: High-power projectiles usually serve as a midway point between basic spells and heavier beam or area attacks and often have useful traits like putting continuous pressure on a defensive barrier (Fate's Arc Saber) or having exceptional post-firing control (Chrono's Stinger Snipe) but some like Fate's Thunder Blade and Signum's Sturm Falke and Sturm Welle are truly powerful in their own right.
Beam: Beam spells are slow to cast but due to their great range and ability to penetrate even a strong mage's defenses they're a must-have for a ranged fighter. Nanoha specializes in these high-powered techniques and knows several with a range of capabilities, but even generalists like Fate and Chrono have at least one available to strike a strong blow when the opportunity presents itself. Divine Buster, Plasma Smasher, and Blaze Cannon are their respective basic beam attacks.
Area: Area attacks are among the most powerful and have only been used by the two strong villains of the series, Precia Testarossa and the Book of Darkness. Projecting force capable of tearing through even strong defenses over a huge area these attacks can only be dealt with by taking the fight directly to the caster. In the hands of these characters such attacks can disable a warship or annihilate a city in a single strike.
Melee: Magic that enhances melee combat makes up for its obvious disadvantages by being both quick to cast and highly effective against defenses. Fate's scythe blade and almost every attack used by Signum fall into this category; Vita, most familiars, Chrono, and the Book of Darkness use it as well.
Collection: Most commonly heavy beam or area attacks, collection-type gather additional magical energy beyond what is generated by the caster from their surroundings, making them more powerful but slower to cast than anything the mage could normally manage. Nanoha's ultimate spell Starlight Breaker is the obvious example.
Physical: Most spells directly affect the enemy with magical energy or force, but some create secondary physical effects. This has the advantage of bypassing some defenses. Nanoha's Stardust Fall, Fate's Thunder Fall, and any physical bind falls into this category.

Combat- Support:
Defensive Barrier: Confusingly also used as a general term for almost any large constant-effect spell, 'barrier' in this case refers to generic shield spells that attempt to stop damage by simply interposing a wall of magical force. Nanoha's Protection is especially strong and Yuuno's can cover multiple people.
Defensive Shield: Unlike the general-use barriers, shields interpose a magical diagram and attempt to stop damage by applying a specific neutralizing effect against the opponent's magic. These can be highly effective and are presumably energy-efficient but depend on the user's understanding of the enemy attack and are therefore the least dependable defense. They are quick to use and often form last-second defenses. Due to her great knowledge of magic the Book of Darkness' Panzer Schild went undefeated against even multiple attacks.
Defensive Field: Fields that cancel or ameliorate a specific effect are the third type of defense, specialized like Shields but more dependable. Anti-magic fields are an especially high-level technique that blocks any magical force and can only be overcome by physical spells or highly specialized and difficult techniques for penetrating it.
Direct Bind:
These spells bind a target in magical force, usually chains or cuffs. While most characters know such techniques, they are most commonly used by Yuuno and the various familiars; the undisputed master is Aria Lotte who can bind many targets with multiple binds at long range quickly and from hiding. Though not as overpowering Chrono's subtle use of these techniques makes him especially dangerous with them as well.
Physical Bind: These spells bind a target in some actual physical constraint like ice. Hayate/Reinforce's Frieren Fesseln and Chrono's Eternal Coffin are examples, and the Book of Darkness' ability to summon tentacles might be considered one as well.
Summon: These spells summon creatures to attack. The Book of Darkness could summon any magical beast she had absorbed, but a TSAB mage has been shown using a summon as well so they exist as normal spells.

Utility- Support:
Healing: Doesn't require much explanation. Yuuno's healing spell needs time to work but can be integrated into a barrier and persist without his attention; Shamal's is much stronger and can heal multiple injuries on several people almost instantly.
Boost: Traditional RPG-style 'buffs' to increase speed, power, etc.
Search/Scan: Searching spells are usually used either to find a specific object in a large area or closely analyze a specific object. Yuuno and Shamal are experts at this.
Illusion: Using illusions to fool enemies. So far limited to sending out false bodies to draw fire and the personal-disguise spells listed below.
Transformation: Using illusory guises or invisibility to conceal oneself. Shamal is said to have some skill in this and Teana is a capable user. At any rate the master of this skill is Aria Lotte, who uses it in conjunction with her long range binds to defeat even main characters and villains with ease.
Flight: While most Nanoha characters are capable of flight, Fate is noted for being especially fast and the Book of Darkness can match her. Some characters also have abilities that allow them to put on bursts of additional speed for ninja-style attacks, such as Nanoha's Flash Move, Fate's Blitz Rush, and Vita's Pferd.
Transfer: Transfer magic allows for either intra or inter-dimensional teleportation. The Wolkenritter can use it individually while the Midchildan mages seem to depend on their ships' systems to move personnel.
Barriers: This term covers a huge range of constant area effects but in combat use they're usually used to form a restricted space to contain combats and/or block communications.

And of course, many more less readily categorized.

Other terms:
Machine Weapons: Magitech attack drones exist in the Nanoha universe, ranging from simplistic cannon-fodder autospheres and humanoid mecha to advanced magically-shielded fliers. While the TSAB appears only to employ the weakest as training aids some of their more powerful opponents field armies of more advanced weapons.
Lost Logia: TSAB term for powerful magical artifacts from dead civilizations. They are often dangerous but the power they offer attracts the unscrupulous and foolish.
Familiars: Skilled mages can create artificial sentient life by uplifting animals. (Some debate over whether this is the most common method). These have their own bodies but depend on their creator for the power that keeps them alive and battleworthy. They are shapeshifters and tend to specialize in close-combat, offensive support magic, or both. Belkans call them 'Guardian Beasts' but in Arf's words, 'it's the same damn thing!'
Living Programs: The Wolkenritter were all subprograms of the Book of Darkness: they have their own Linker Cores but their bodies are artificial constructs created by the Book. They do not age and the absorption of their Linker Cores destroys them, but they can be brought back to life. Whether they have any further advantages or disadvantages is unknown. Reinforce and Reinforce II also generate bodies for themselves, though they have another more-permanent form.

Shortlist of Characters:
Main Characters:
Takamachi Nanoha: Native of Uminari, Japan. Traditional magical girl, acts like a shounen lead. Captain and training officer in the Midchildan Air Force. Focus on long range high-power beam magic and aerial combat tactics. Her weapon is the staff/cannon/spear, Raising Heart. Her friends and family constitute most of the named tertiary characters.
Fate Testarossa/Haroun: Native to Midchilda. Traditional dark magical girl, reformed villain. Captain (as the rank is used in non-naval services) in the Midchildan Interdimensional Navy. A clone of Alicia Testarossa, is later adopted by Lindy Haroun. Focus on mixed close and ranged combat, skirmishing tactics, high-speed movement, and spell variety. Her weapon is the bardiche/scythe/greatsword, Bardiche.
Yagami Hayate: Native of Uminari, Japan. Last master of the Book of Darkness and Wolkenritter. Very modest. Supposedly still has bits of Reinforce in her. Focus on lost Belkan magic. Her weapons are the Unison Device Reinforce II, a storage device in the shape of the book, and an armed device, the spear Schwertkreuz. Extremely powerful.

'Second Generation' Main Characters:
Subaru Nakajima: Origin unknown. Midchildan army private, subordinate of Nanoha and Vita. Overly emotional. Thinks she's a mecha. Idolizes Nanoha. Uses New Belkan magic. Focus on close combat, ground mobility. Her weapon is the gauntlet Revolver Knuckle. Weak.
Teana Lanster: Midchildan army private, subordinate of Nanoha and Vita. Typical tsundere type. Focus on illusions, magitech firearms. Her weapon is some handgun. Weak.
Elio Mondial: Midchildan army private, subordinate of Fate and Signum. Uses New Belkan magic. Focus on close combat. His weapon is a broad-bladed spear. Weak.
Carol Rush: Midchildan army private, subordinate of Fate and Signum. Specializes in healing and buffing. Has a 'boost device' (?) glove and a dragon. Has the dubious distinction of being the lowest-ranked magic user in the show.

Chrono Haroun: TSAB officer. Son of Lindy, adoptive brother of Fate. Admiral in the Interdimensional Navy as of the third season. Mostly serious with a dry sense of humor, responsible for Fate's training. Focus on skirmishing, spell variety, command, being a sneaky bastard. His weapons are the storage device S2U and the prototype ice magic-optimized device Durandal.
Yuuno Scrya: Archaeologist, shapeshifter. Bookish and easily picked on. Was briefly responsible for Nanoha's training. Focus on defensive support and utility magic, especially scanning. His weapon was Raising Heart for about two seconds; he is currently the only human not to use one.
Lindy Haroun: TSAB Captain. Mother of Chrono, adoptive mother of Fate. Delegates and drinks tea a lot. Focus on command, drinking tea, having Chrono take care of it. Her weapon is the TSAB warship Asura. Retired from active duty in the third series.
Amy Linette: Asura ops officer, along with some guy named Alex. Takes responsibility, good relationship with Chrono. Focus on actually doing everything on the Asura. Her weapon is her control panel. Apparently married to Chrono as of the third season.
(A slew of additional support characters were added in the third season who I'll detail once I know a little more about them).

The Book of Darkness: Corrupted Belkan Unison Device, served by the Wolkenritter. Lots of angst and fatalism. Later becomes Reinforce. Focus on stealing magic, being invincible, eternal sleep, berserking, eating things. A weapon herself, she needs none. Ridiculously powerful.
Precia Testarossa: Crazy Midchildan archmage. Crazy, cloned Fate her brain dead daughter Alicia, wanted to go back in time or some crap. Lots of laughing and coughing. Focus on generic but extremely powerful purple lightning crap. Her weapon was some dumb staff/whip deal. Extremely powerful.
Gil Graham: Native of England, then TSAB admiral. Serious, driven by guilt over his mishandling of the last incarnation of the Book of Darkness. Focus on command, logistics, delegation. His weapons are the TSAB and his Familiars. Probably extremely powerful (since his Familiars are and all...).

Arf: Fate's familiar. Wolf-based. Like all familiars is very loyal. Focus on offensive support magic, pugilism. Her weapons are her fists.
Lieze Lotte: Graham's familiar. Cat-based. Like all familiars is very loyal. The playful one. Focus on stealth, close-combat. Her weapons are her fists and feet.

Aria Lotte: Graham's familiar. Cat-based. Like all familiars is very loyal. The serious one. Focus on stealth, offensive support magic. Her weapons are a large number of TSAB Storage-cards and the 'Staff of Freezing,' Durandal, but she surrenders the latter to Chrono before using it. Extremely powerful.
Linis: Precia's familiar. Of unknown stock. Like all familiars was very loyal. Was responsible for Alicia and then Fate's education. She is now part of Fate's weapon, Bardiche (unconfirmed rumor). Nothing is known about her abilities (though they would probably be great due the strength of her creator).

Signum: 'Knight of the Sword.' Leader of the Wolkenritter, Lieutenant in the Midchildan military. Ostensibly an extremely serious, dutiful Knight, less visibly a battle-loving manipulative asshole. Focus on close combat, more close combat, and weapons and armor enhancement. Her weapon is the Ivy-style 'Burning Demonic Sword'/bow Laevateinn.
Vita: 'Knight of the Hammer.' Line fighter of the Wolkenritte, Lieutenant in the Midchildan military. Little girl with a big hammer and an even bigger chip on her shoulder. Impulsive and quick to anger. Focus on close combat, but not to the same extent as Signum. Her weapon is a rocket-powered size-changing hammer, the 'Iron Count' Graf Eisen. (Redundant.)
Shamal: 'Knight of the Lake.' Defensive support caster of the Wolkenritter. A huge worrier. Focus on defensive support and utility magic, especially healing. Her weapon is the 'Ring of Breezes'/pendulum/portal, Klarer Wind.
Zafira: 'Beast of the Shield.' Wolf-based Guardian Beast. Offensive support caster of the Wolkenritter. Like all familiars is very loyal. Probably the most clear-headed of the Wolkenritter. Focus on offensive support magic, pugilism. His weapons are his fists and feet.

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